Affiliate marketing on Instagram has opened up the doors for brands, influencers, and affiliate marketers to work creatively together.
By utilising the power of word-of-mouth marketing and shout-outs, consumers are more likely to buy, brands are more likely to sell products, influencers can earn money, and affiliates are able to create a passive income. This article includes a step-by-step guide to affiliate marketing on Instagram along with 15 essential methods to optimise any Instagram affiliate marketing efforts for the target audience.
Benefits of Instagram Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing(1) on Instagram has opened up the doors for brands and influencers to work creatively together. By utilising the power of word-of-mouth marketing, consumers are more likely to buy via social media.
Instagram is the #1 social media platform used by brands for their influencer campaigns(2). As of January 2018, Instagram dominated all other platforms at 78% usage compared to only 16% for blogs, 4% for YouTube, 2% for Facebook and 1% for Pinterest. With 69% of US marketers(3) planning to spend most of their influencer budget on Instagram, they are certainly dominating the game when it comes to user-generated content.
According to Statista, as of June 2018, Instagram reported having 1 billion monthly active users(4). It is now over three times the size of Twitter.
This isn't something that should be ignored, especially for brands looking at Instagram affiliate marketing strategies. So how can a brand, affiliate marketer or influencer get started with affiliate promotions on Instagram?
How does affiliate marketing for Instagram work?
Affiliate marketing enables influencers to earn a commission on each sale they refer to a brand's website. The brand needs to be working with an affiliate network or affiliate program in order for a sale to be tracked correctly. It is mutually beneficial for both brands and influencers to work together to try to maximise sales.
Benefits of working with social media influencers for affiliate marketing
Despite initial concerns that influencer marketing would suffer a hit due to Covid-19, influencer marketing, has actually seen an upturn, with this method of selling products online expected to reach $13.8 billion in 2021. Brands who work with Instagram influencers on an affiliate program can expect to see several benefits, including:
Increased engagement with your brand
When Instagram affiliates promote links of a product on Instagram, they usually tag the brand they are promoting in the comment and also link to the specific product, creating clickable Instagram posts.
This means that when the target audience is browsing and reading the comments, the brand will be prominent in the eyes of potential customers. If they click on the tag of sponsored posts, they will be directed to the correlating Instagram page. And if they copy and paste the link to the product, the brand will gain more traffic and Instagram engagement. So it's a win-win situation.
VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk shared his practical strategies in a $1.80 Instagram Strategy to Grow Your Business or Brand(5). This much-dissected content being discussed by influencers is worth a read.
An increase in revenue
Word of mouth marketing is incredibly effective, particularly in the context of affiliate marketing. It can increase the conversion rate of up to 4.5%(6) because word-of-mouth marketing is more powerful and more likely to lead to a sale. With this in mind, working with an Instagram influencer is a great plan to bolster a marketing budget via social media.
Creating ongoing relationships between Instagram influencers and brand
When an Instagram influencer works with a brand and is successful in terms of generating more sales and increasing active users, it is likely that both the influencer and the brand would be interested in repeating it. This is ideal for brands that don't just want a one-time promotion with a potential new ambassador.
How To Set Up An Instagram Affiliate Marketing Program
Once an affiliate understands precisely what benefits they can gain from Instagram affiliate marketing, they can take the first steps to set up their own affiliate program. Here is a step-by-step guide for Instagram users looking to set up a new affiliate program.
Set up Your Instagram Account
Whether the user is a brand, social media influencer or affiliate marketer, creating a good Instagram profile isn't as easy as it sounds. In principle is simple - take a good photo, upload it, add a filter and publish.
However, some of the most successful accounts have taken steps to make sure their Instagram stands out from the crowd so that they can gain more followers. And if they are an influencer, it paves the way for big brands to want to work with them to reach a wider audience.
Choose a good username
The first is to choose a memorable username so when people are tagging the profile in their photos on Instagram, they don't have to search hard to find it.
It's best not to have any strange characters in your username as it can make it more difficult for people to find you.
Pick a relevant profile picture
Next, make sure the picture reflects the profile of your affiliate program. If it is a business, it should include a logo and not a photo of yourself. If it is an individual, generally speaking, a high-quality headshot will do the trick. Both image and username should marry up to represent the profile's brand.
Make the Instagram account public
The Instagram profile should be accessible to everyone. Setting the Instagram account to private means having to approve each person who wants to follow.
This will slow down the whole process increasing the follower count, a key metric in selling affiliate products.
Create an informative bio
Make sure the Instagram bio includes useful information about the Instagram user or company. With only 150 characters to show off what the brand is about, it is essential to make them count.
Be sure to include the website link and a method of contact. This is important for influencers and also for brands. At the moment, it isn't possible to search bios for keywords and hashtags, so there is no need for them to be included in the bio.
Use captions and geo-tagging
A compelling photo for Instagram affiliate marketing will include relevant information about the photograph and ask a question of the followers. This is important to drive engagement to the posts and it gives people the information they are searching for.
Geo-tagging can help when customers want to find out where something is located. A blogger utilising geo-tagging might include where the photograph was taken. Brands should geo-tag store locations to make it easier for people to find.
Use niche-relevant tags and hashtags
When an affiliate marketer is posting a photo, they should make sure to use relevant tags. To choose the best tags for the content, they need to research their audience to find out what hashtags they are using on their posts. Posting the most popular tags won't necessarily help in the long run.
For example, a travel blogger should use travel-related tags. If they were to include a hashtag about vitamins, it wouldn't necessarily fit with their content. If they include a hashtag that doesn't fit their niche, people will be less likely to engage.
The Instagram Engagement Report 2018 highlights(7) indicated that tagging other users in posts increases engagement rates and helps boost awareness, but using hashtags does not.
The average engagement rate on influencer-generated content on Instagram worldwide in 2017 for influencers with 100k-500k followers was 2.21%.
Include a URL in the comments
When people are following a brand or influencer, they will usually see images on their news feed instead of going directly to a page. This is why it's crucial to include affiliate links below the picture in order t drive more traffic to the page or to a particular product page.
Of all the social media platforms, Instagram has gone out of its way to make it easy for its users to be online shoppers. It is easy to make your organic posts shoppable. For those just starting out with Instagram affiliate marketing, they can check out the Instagram Shopping Guide(9). Their research reveals that 70% of shopping enthusiasts turn to Instagram for product discovery.
In a September 2019 announcement from Instagram(10), they indicated that 130 million accounts were already tapping tags to buy directly on Instagram. In the same announcement, Instagram mentions that they are testing Instagram Shopping posts as ads. Their focus on shopping is why Instagram is the most popular social media platform brands use influencers on.
Another new feature test announced on September 30, 2019, is the ability for followers to set reminders to buy products on their launch date directly on Instagram. Wise brands can line up influential affiliates to generate buzz(11) before their product even launches, knowing fans can set reminders to buy as soon as a product drops!
Brands should tag their products
Tagging products on Instagram make them shoppable to followers. It allows you to include up to 5 products in one image, and the pricing will be displayed for your visitors.
When they click on the product or affiliate link, it will take them through to the product page, which can lead to a purchase. It's a great way to boost sales.
Choose an Affiliate Network
The next step is to select and sign up for an affiliate network. Major affiliate networks offer affiliate marketers a range of benefits, including connecting them with influencers, tracking technology, reporting tools and payment processing technology. An Affiliate network, such as Commission Factory, will help those new to affiliate marketing understand which commission model is best for their affiliate marketing sales, connect them with micro-influencers and link them with potential customers. The tracking technology is fundamental as it allows influencers to track clicks and sales.
Select Commission Rates
Once they have selected and joined one of the Affiliate Networks, it's time to set their commission rates. That is, how much they'll pay an influencer for every actual sale they help facilitate through the use of a discount code on their Instagram posts.
15 Key strategies for affiliates on Instagram
Here are 15 strategies to maximise an Instagram affiliate marketing strategy.1. Create a page on your website to shop your Instagram and include it in your Instagram bio
This is one of the best ways for influencers (and micro-influencers) to get their traffic to convert to sales. If an Instagram feed is full of beautiful lifestyle images that people are curious about, then letting them know they can shop these items is key. @sheshopped has done this on her Instagram, and the page on her website has all of her shoppable Instagram photos with product information, and when a user clicks on one, they are given some information on it and can click through to the store.
Coupon codes have always been an effective way to get people to buy something and they are integral in the context of affiliate marketing. Influencers like @taylavvilson have a product photograph, and in the blurb, she includes a coupon. If it is an exclusive coupon code, then it has more draw because the discount is better than a standard coupon code. Not all coupon codes require a click to be tracked by an affiliate network. This is excellent news for these affiliates who want to promote an exclusive code but don't want to include an affiliate link.
Travel blogger @Anna Everywhere has an Instagram full of stunning photo shoots in amazing locations around the world. She is incredibly stylish, and many people send her messages asking where she buys her clothes. So to help with that - even though this is not the focal point of the picture, she will include a link to the product below the image. The image below is from Waikiki, and she mentions her bikini after everything she has to say about the location. She also doesn't link to products in every single post that she does.
This might sound like a given, but it looks better if users can do their own photoshoot in their own style - it goes back to the word of mouth marketing. If the influencer is the one wearing the product, it is more genuine and more likely to lead to a sale. @victoriama9 is a great example of this - it's clear in the images that it's her wearing the outfits and not a photo from the brand. Utilising a professional photographer to create high-quality digital images is perfect for the Instagram audience.
5. Use Instagram stories to create Brand Awareness
Since the introduction of Instagram stories in October 2016, it has become incredibly popular as a peek into the day-to-day lives of some of the most popular Instagrammers out there. From October 2016 to January 2019, daily active users of Instagram Stories has grown 5x from 100 million to 500 million(12). Anything that gets posted lasts for just 24 hours. @sheshopped posted about creating pretty ice cubes for her Marks and Spencer Australia photo shoot the next day. This lets people know to expect something new on her Instagram the next day to highlight that brand. Influencers can use her strategy to pique people's curiosity, increase engagement and generate more conversions. Using the "Join Chat" and video features in Instagram Stories will help gain even more traction.
6. Work on a niche and use Instagram to bolster your community
Focusing on a niche that has a highly engaged following is more likely to be successful. @shopbackau is one of those affiliates. It is for people who want to shop for the best deals and get cashback on all their spending. If a brand has any great promotions, they will let their users know so they can grab the bargain, nab the products and accumulate cashback. They have a very active Facebook page, but they use their Instagram page to highlight products, but also to encourage brands to work with them.
7. Create blog posts that work alongside the Instagram post
To make the most of followers and to increase the likelihood of someone going on to buy, a blog post on the influencer's own website can help drive traffic and bolster chances of a referral sale - this works particularly well with beauty posts, or travel and lifestyle posts. Influencers and brands can include it in an Instagram story or as part of the post advertising the product.
@husshsales does this on a regular basis.
8. Run sponsored posts to boost sales
Sponsored posts on Instagram can be a great tool to increase followers, and engagements on specific posts. If influencers have a coupon code or are working on a collaboration, this can be a good way to increase sales. Users can target their audience via specific demographics, including location, interests, behaviours, and purchase intent, making it easy to find the people they are looking for.
9. Run paid search and direct it to the Instagram page or post
If an influencer wants to get more followers or more clicks on a specific post, it is possible to run paid search to their Instagram page via Google Adwords. To do this, they need to make sure that they keep their conversion rate and budget in mind and do their keyword research properly.
If all of this has convinced you that you want to get started as an affiliate influencer on Instagram, or if you're a brand and you want to recruit some influencers on an affiliate marketing basis remember some of the critical points - make sure that your Instagram profile stands out from the rest, work on developing good relationships with the people you want to work with and make sure you have a strategy and clear expectations that work for you both. This way, neither of you will be disappointed, and you should be on your way to creating more revenue.
10. Emulate tactics influencers use in Instagram sponsored campaigns
The eMarketer 2018 State of Influencer Marketing Study(13) confirmed that Instagram is the primary social platform for influencer marketing of all the social media marketing channels.
It also highlighted tactics influencers use worldwide for sponsored campaigns on Instagram.
Number one at 55.4% was Instagram Stories. Instagram Story highlights were second at 26.0%, followed by Instagram Polls at 15.9% and the Instagram Swipe Up feature at 15.3%.
13% mentioned refraining from posting organic content to ensure sponsored content got more attention in their feed. And 10.3% used Instagram Live.
11. Video and Instagram TV (IG TV)
Internet users are spending ever-more time watching videos, and Instagram is a great platform for a content creator to leverage the video format. Serious influencers and brands need to move into video if they haven't already.
Influencers can use IG TV to tell brand stories, behind-the-scenes record videos, share tutorials, review products, interesting interview personalities, and increase the connection with followers. IG TV videos can be up to an hour long.
12. Where to use affiliate links on Instagram
It may not be immediately obvious how to even use Instagram for affiliate marketing because users cannot enter links when they post photos. This isn't unusual as social media channels prefer to keep their users on their site and favour posts without links with more views. Instagram wisely enables purchases without ever leaving their platforms which is the best way to generate sales.
But links can be used on Instagram, too. Here are some strategies for getting your affiliate links on Instagram:
- If an influencer is only promoting one brand, they should leave the affiliate link in the bio so followers have somewhere else to interact with
- Influencers who promote one brand at a time sequentially can change the affiliate link in their bio to match the brand they are currently promoting.
- Business accounts with at least 10k followers can consider using a swipe-up link in Instagram stories, but remember what we said about platforms favouring posts that are not trying to send their users off their site. This method can reduce visibility.
- Creating really memorable branded short URLs to use on images or in photo descriptions can lead to users typing them in manually. This is the least likely to work as even links in tweets and on other social networks are getting fewer and fewer clicks with each passing year.
- Best idea: skip the link and use a coupon code to get credit for the sale of products instead.
13. Always use #ad or #spon per legal requirements
Influencers can stay out of legal difficulties by remembering to consistently meet the Australian ACCC / American FTC disclosure requirements (or equivalent in your country).
Fines can be very steep on both brands and influencers. So even if there is a low likelihood of prosecution, who wants to take that chance?
Contests are popular, but influencers should make sure they know their country's legal requirements. Many contests seen online today are borderline or outright illegal. That may catch up with them someday.
14. Get serious about measuring results
Influencers who are serious about making money via affiliate products on the Instagram app use tools to schedule their shares at the best time to post on Instagram(16). And they use analytics to measure what is working so they can increase their conversion rates.
Anyone serious about Instagram affiliate marketing should get familiar with Instagram Insights in their Instagram business account.
Another handy tool to measure success is the free Kicksta Instagram Engagement Calculator(17). Brands often choose influencers for their affiliate marketing program based on how much engagement their posts get.
Influencers and affiliates interested in getting more brand-sponsored work need to focus on increasing their engagement numbers. One way to do that is to limit how much they post.
Putting more time and effort into crafting the perfect post and giving it more time to be featured is key to successful Instagram affiliate marketing.
Key Instagram Takeaways
If all of this has convinced you that you want to start as an affiliate influencer on Instagram, or if you're a brand and you want to recruit some influencers on an affiliate basis, remember some of the key points:
- make sure that your Instagram profile stands out from the rest
- work on researching influencers and developing good relationships with influencers and brands in your niche
- have a strategy and clear expectations that work for you both
- remember that algorithms constantly change, so focus on an Instagram strategy that works in 2020(18) (and update as needed)
If you would like to incorporate Instagram into your affiliate marketing activity, speak to your Commission Factory contact or contact us.
Commission Factory is not only the Asia-Pacific region’s largest affiliate network, working with more than 700 of the world's biggest brands, but is also a performance marketing platform that allows content creators and influencers to earn money and online businesses to increase sales.
Register as an Affiliate today.
- Commission Factory: What is Affiliate Marketing?
- eMarketer: For Influencers, Instagram Is the Clear-Cut Favorite
- eMarketer: Ads from Influencers You Don't Follow: What Marketers Need To Know About Instagram's New Update
- Statista: Number of monthly active Instagram users from January 2013 to June 2018
- GARY VAYNERCHUK:THE $1.80 INSTAGRAM STRATEGY TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS OR BRAND
- Sprout Social: The most important Instagram statistics you need to know for 2021
- Mention: The Instagram Engagement Report 2021
- Statista: Average engagement rate on branded influencer-generated content on Instagram worldwide in 2017, by follower count
- Facebook for Business: Instagram Shopping Guide
- Facebook for Business: Testing Instagram shopping posts as ads
- New: Testing Reminders for Product Launches on Instagram Shopping
- Statista: Number of daily active Instagram Stories users from October 2016 to January 2019
- eMarketer: Instagram Leads as a Global Platform for Influencer Marketing
- Welcome to IGTV, our New Video App
- ABC: Instafamous must reveal #ads under new transparency rules
- Later Blog: The Best Time to Post on Instagram in 2021, According to 35 Million Posts
- Kicksta: Instagram Engagement Calculator
- Later Blog: This is How the Instagram Algorithm Works in 2021